Story Three: Independence Day
Tomorrow would be October 1st, 1960, Independence Day. Nigeria would finally be free from British rule. Governor General Sir James Roberson would be handing over power to the newly elected leaders of Nigeria, Sir Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister and Nnamdi Azikiwe as President. Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello joined with the Prime minister and President formed the founding fathers of this great nation.
The event had been the talk of the town for weeks, and since it fell on a Saturday, everyone was at home to observe the great historic day. The event would be taking place in Lagos, the then capital. Chideraa was worried sick. He had to be in Lagos. But how could he? He was just a twelve year old boy living in Umuagwo community, about seven hundred kilometres or more away from Lagos. His father, Obierika, had brought out his radio to the open air so that the crowd that gathered in his house could listen. Chideraa sat closest to the radio. He needed to hear every detail, not that he understood all of what was said.
Great cheers filled the community as the proclamation of independence was made and Sir Tafawa Balewa took the podium to address millions of Nigerians all over the country. Young men were jumping in their exuberance, while the old men chanted songs of freedom. The ladies and women simply observed with great enthusiasm how their male folks really got excited over the independence celebrations. Perhaps, it hadn’t meant as much to them as it did to the men.
The trumpet blasts and drumbeats made cool melody which carried the sounds of freedom in every tone. Through the radio broadcast, one could sense that the whole world had great expectations of a country that was the world’s most populous black nation and was rich in soil and natural resources. Dignitaries from all over the world came to witness the event. The expectations of Nigerian citizens were no less. The broadcast on the radio had ended around 4pm, but the Umuagwo human radios continued their commentaries and analysis on how things were going to evolve and get better. The most talked about subject was that the District Commissioners would no longer trouble their lives and that the British government would no longer benefit from the nation’s wealth.
By nightfall the celebrations had died down and the brightness of the moon could be seen in the heavens. The women of Umuagwo had already made dinner even before the men were ready to eat. Obierika’s compound was finally deserted, only few persons hung around here and there.
During the meals Chideraa engaged his father in a discussion.
“Papa, so does it mean that we will now start ruling ourselves from now on?” He asked.
“Yes my son, and all our wealth will be used to better our own people and would no longer be taken to the White men’s country” He sounded like he was more concerned about Nigeria’s wealth than Nigeria’s freedom from British rule. Chideraa didn’t like it.
“But Papa, are we sure that we can rule ourselves now” He asked with a doubtful look.
“Yes of course. Those our new leaders are learned people. They all schooled in the White man’s country. They know what the white men know too.” Those words sounded normal or even hopeful, but somehow, they made little Chideraa worry. He kept mute and just grimaced.
“Aren’t you happy about the new leaders Chideraa?” His father asked.
And he foolishly replied “Papa, you said that they went to the white men’s school and they know what the white men know. Would they not treat us like the white men treated us too? Would they not do exactly what the white men did?”
His father hadn’t thought it through in that light before. The only thing that would stop them from doing exactly what the white men did, using the nation’s resources for their own good, would be patriotism. But who could determine how patriotic these men were? Even Obierika himself didn’t know if he rejoiced for Nigeria or for Nnamdi Azikiwe’s presidency. The heart of man they say is deceitful and desperately wicked. He shrugged his shoulders. “Only time would tell,” he said to himself. Time actually did tell.
After the families in Umuagwo had eaten to their full, the wind of quietness swept the land. The next morning, normal life activities resumed in Umuagwo, except for the fact that no one expected those khaki-wearing messengers of the District Commissioner to interfere with their lives again.